In addition to taking the top spot in the 2021 Misery Index, communist Cuba can now also boast of being the least free country in all the Americas. No one can beat socialism when it comes to misery and oppression.
Cuba’s one-party communist state outlaws political pluralism, bans independent media, suppresses dissent, and severely restricts basic civil liberties. The government continues to dominate the economy despite recent reforms that permit some private-sector activity. The regime’s undemocratic character has not changed despite a generational transition in political leadership between 2018 and 2021 that included the introduction of a new constitution.
Key Developments in 2021
- Cuba saw the largest protests in over 20 years on July 11, as protesters nationwide rallied over goods shortages, economic difficulties, and the government’s COVID-19 response. Security forces responded violently, using live ammunition, tear gas, and charging maneuvers against participants. Detainees faced torture and degrading treatment while in custody and suffered due process violations during subsequent trials.
- The government continued to target the dissident San Isidro Movement (MSI) and 27N artist collectives during the year. MSI member Luis Manuel Otero Alcántra was forced to a hospital in early May to end a hunger strike and was detained on July 11, while MSI cofounder Maykel Castillo Pérez was detained in mid-May. Otero and Castillo remained in custody at year’s end.
- In August, the government gazetted Decree Laws 35 and 42, both of which target the dissemination of information deemed false or detrimental to “public order.” The government also gazetted Resolution 105, which targets “false news,” that month.
- Havana retired the convertible peso (CUC) in January, ending the country’s dual currency system. The Cuban peso (CUP), the surviving domestic currency, lost value against the US dollar on the black market as the year progressed.
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